Alain Jacques / President / Solisco Printers / Scott, Quebec
This past May, Solisco Printers marked its 25-year anniversary after the company was founded in 1991 by Alain Jacques and Jean Grégoire. The company initially focused on the publishing market, which remains a core business generating around 35 percent of its annual revenues, and more recently has expanded into the retail industry with the goal of serving niche vertical markets with catalogues and a range of related services from digital adaptations to distribution.
In 2011, Solisco initiated a new phase of investment with the installation of a Goss Sunday 3000 web press, which is now the cornerstone technology for the 400-employee company, headquartered in a 200,000-square-foot plant. PrintAction spoke with Jacques about the past 25 years and what the future holds for Solisco.
What is Solisco’s market position today?
AJ: We used to only mainly focus on magazines. Now we want grow the retail and catalogue side of our business, because newsstand sales today have been suffering. It is not a growing market, but there is still a huge market for magazines all across the U.S., so we want to offer the best services for high-end magazine and catalogue clients for the next few years. With competition you have to offer a bunch of services around the product. You have to be aware of the strategies of our clients and be a lot more involved.
What is Solisco’s key tech advantage?
AJ: Three years ago we invested in a Goss Sunday 3000. It was a risk but it has been a good reward for us, because it is a high-productivity piece of equipment... In our printing market, you must be a low-cost producer. In Canada, in general over the past few years, we have not invested in equipment as much as the U.S. has.
How does Solisco attract talent to Scott?
AJ: We do not have a lot of population around but people come from Quebec and we also do a lot of training with our people. We have a school inside Solisco. We have classes and train our people who earn a diploma. We have been one of only a few producers to do this and every session we have about 10 or 15 new diplomas.
What new markets are you focused on?
AJ: To print more jewelry catalogues, for example, we are going to go to all of the jewelry shows and directly show how we are going to be able to service that sector. We try to go vertical on specialty niches, so we do not go after big, big retailers or publishers… more emphasis is put on the manufacturers of products.
How do you approach niche markets?
AJ: We have subject-matter experts so whatever the client needs they are going to have the right person to answer their questions. Our sales reps know about the print itself, but when it comes to mailing and distribution or developing content for example, you need internal expertise.
How important is distribution for publication printers?
AJ: We do a lot of publishing in the U.S. and it is quite different than Canada with all of the co-mailing that exists. We have developed some expertise with geo-localization to get the best return on your investment. You have to offer services to go beyond just the cost of the transportation.
What is your primary objective moving Solisco forward?
AJ: Our tagline at Solisco is Experts with Character – innovation is the key. Innovation in everything: Research and development, on new types of products, adding equipment, whatever it is that is going to help clients sell more. Innovation is my key word for the next few years.
What is Solisco’s investment plan for the near future?
AJ: We are working on a major retooling to have all new equipment and get rid of the older equipment, adding capacity to our facility. This is a major tenant that we have for the next couple of years. I would like to put in another [Sunday] 3000... We are working on the project right now.
You need the right balance between signing contracts with major clients and having productivity gain. That is a risk that I am willing to take right now in the next two to four years. We will also be investing in new bindery equipment, so it is part of a pretty big project… we are talking about $20 million over the next four or five years, minimum… I believe print is going to be there for the next several years.
What excites you most about the future for print?
AJ: Canadian Tire just put out 12-million copies of a catalogue, last month. For me that is a game changer. They are going back to print. We see a lot of clients going back to print because it works. You have credibility in print that gives a client an edge over others that do not use print. I do not have any apprehension about the future with printing. Even if it is going to slow down for the next few years there is so much consolidation that there are a lot of possibilities, but you have to keep your eyes open.
Spotlight Q&A: Alain Jacques, Solisco
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